As part of an effort to recognize and rise above its own systemic discrimination, Unity World Headquarters compiled this chronology of its race relations, woven together with what was happening in Missouri and the United States at the time. For a fuller story, see Unity and Race: A Truthful History.


1800s

  •  1820 U.S. Congress passes the Missouri Compromise, admitting Missouri to the Union as a slave state. To maintain a balance of slave and nonslave states, Maine is admitted as a free state. 
  • 1861-65 During the Civil War, Missouri sends men and supplies to both sides and is represented by a star on each flag. The state government is led by Unionists, but a Confederate state government remains a presence. 
  • 1863 The federal Emancipation Proclamation frees slaves in the territory held by Confederate forces. As a border state, Missouri is exempt. Two years later, a state convention votes 60-4 to approve a law abolishing slavery, and the Missouri governor signs it the same day. 
  • 1865 The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, abolishing slavery. 
  • 1868 The 14th Amendment grants Black Americans citizenship and guarantees them equal protection under the law. 
  • 1870 The burning of Black schools and churches and lack of jobs begins to drive many Black people out of Missouri. 
  • 1889 Unity is founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore in Kansas City, Missouri. It has a variety of organizational names until it is incorporated in 1914 as Unity School of Christianity. Said Charles Fillmore, “The object of this school is the redemption of the human race.” 
  • 1896 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Plessy v. Ferguson that segregated facilities are constitutional if they are equal, enshrining the doctrine of “separate but equal” and paving the way for Jim Crow laws that segregate public accommodations by race—hotels, trains and buses, restrooms, drinking fountains, beaches and pools, and more.

1900s

  • 1901 A Black child is included in a drawing used as the standard cover on the Unity Wee Wisdom® magazine for children. 
  • 1901 A white mob takes three Black men from the jail in Pierce City in southwest Missouri, lynches them, burns Black homes, and drives Black families into the woods. The Equal Justice Initiative now estimates 60 Black people were lynched in Missouri between 1877 and 1950, one of the highest rates outside the Deep South. 
  • 1916 Lowell Fillmore, the oldest son of Charles and Myrtle, becomes general manager of Unity and later president after his father dies in 1948. 
  • 1919 Several study groups for “colored people” are listed in Weekly Unity magazine. 1920Historical pictures show Black students with Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. A Unity center for Black people opens in New York City. 
  • 1920 Charles Fillmore begins buying land 15 miles southeast of Kansas City and calls it Unity Farm. The downtown operations continue until 1949, when all work is consolidated at the Farm. 
  • 1920s Kansas City is being developed with green boulevards, stunning fountains, and stately homes in deliberately segregated neighborhoods. Developer J.C. Nichols advertises them as “highly restricted” neighborhoods “where discriminating people buy.” In 2020 Nichols’ name is removed from the Parkway and memorial fountain near Kansas City’s famed Country Club Plaza, which he planned and opened in 1923. 
  • 1927 In a speech at the Unity summer conference, Charles Fillmore says, “We see no separation in color, in race, in sect, in creed, in anything. We are all one in Spirit.” But he also makes occasional jokes about Black people in his Sunday lessons. 
  • 1928 The Annual Conference at Unity Farm includes a special program featuring Black speakers. 1930Black people are leading several Unity centers and study groups in the United States. 
  • 1931 The Unity Training School, housed at Unity Farm, is established as a four-year correspondence school with students encouraged to visit campus for one month each summer. 
  • 1933 Rickert Fillmore, the second son of Charles and Myrtle, opens a ministerial training program at Unity Farm. 
  • 1934 The Federal Housing Administration begins “redlining” areas where Black citizens cannot get mortgage insurance. It also subsidizes white homeowner subdivisions with a policy that “incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities.” 
  • 1934 The Unity Ministers Association agrees to admit Black ministers “if they desire to join.” 
  • 1934 Unity states in its Training School Bulletin, “Owing to limited living accommodations at Unity Farm, it will be necessary for all colored students who register for classwork to live in Kansas City.” It adds, “Meals will be served a la carte [separately] to Negro students in the Terrace Tea Room.” When the housing policy comes under attack from The Call, a local Black-owned newspaper, its story quotes Lowell Fillmore saying, “We are feeling our way along. This is Missouri, and the Missouri people are not educated to the point, as yet, where they will accept Negroes on a basis of equality.” 
  • 1937 The Annual Conference includes licensed Unity teachers who are Black. The conference board agrees that Black teachers listed in Unity publications will no longer be labeled “Colored Teacher.” 
  • 1938 White people attending the Annual Conference suggest that Unity find accommodations for Black students at Unity Farm because unreliable bus service from Kansas City often causes them to miss meetings. Unity does not act. 
  • 1946 May Rowland, head of the Silent Unity prayer ministry, submits a customer’s testimonial for Unity Magazine but asks the editors whether it is wise to print it “since the woman mentioned that she was a Negro?” The editors say it is fine to print, reasoning, “It might create a good feeling among the Negroes as regards our efforts to help them.” 
  • 1948 The U.S. Supreme Court rules that racially restrictive housing covenants are not legally enforceable. 
  • 1949 President Harry Truman desegregates the U.S. Armed Forces. Truman, who represented Missouri in the U.S. Senate for a decade, grew up in Independence, 13 miles from Unity Farm. 
  • 1952 The first Black ministers ordained by Unity are two women. 1953Unity Farm is incorporated as its own township called Unity Village. 
  • 1953-55 A Unity Training School brochure says, “We hope in time to have living accommodations on Unity Farm for our Negro students.” 
  • 1953 A Black ministerial student named Johnnie Colemon from Chicago is told she will not be allowed to live on Unity grounds. She begins to commute 15 miles each way from Kansas City. 1953At Christmas, Unity entertains employees with a minstrel show. Unity News lists 13 white men, including Lowell Fillmore, “whose faces were blackened for the event.” Unity has a handful of Black employees at the time. 
  • 1954 In a unanimous vote, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the “separate but equal” doctrine, ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that segregated schools are “inherently unequal” and unconstitutional. 
  • 1955 Student Johnnie Colemon demands to live on Unity grounds, backed by a petition from white classmates. Unity offers her a cottage. Later that year, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a bus, sparking the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and setting in motion the civil rights movement. 
  • 1956 Unity Training School no longer requires Black students to live in Kansas City. 1963During a summer youth conference, Black children attending the conference are allowed to swim in the Unity pool for the first time. 
  • 1964 Congress passes a Civil Rights Act prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, religion, or national origin. 
  • 1965 Congress passes the Voting Rights Act to protect minorities voting in elections. 
  • 1966 Rev. Johnnie Colemon returns to Unity Village and finds that although Black students are now allowed to live on grounds, housing is segregated and unequal. Lowell Fillmore asks for more time to deal with it. 
  • 1966 A group of ministers establishes the Association of Unity Churches, a nonprofit professional organization separate from Unity School of Christianity, to support ministers and ministries. It is now called Unity Worldwide Ministries. 
  • 1968 Congress passes the Fair Housing Act forbidding discrimination in sales or rentals of housing. 1971Charles R. Fillmore, the grandson of Charles and Myrtle, becomes president and chairman of the board for Unity School. 
  • 1974 Rev. Johnnie Colemon leaves Unity and founds a branch of New Thought called the Universal Foundation for Better Living. Half the Black ministers in Unity go with her. 
  • 1979 Rev. Ruth Mosley founds a seminary in Detroit, the Unity Urban Ministerial School, to train ministers who will work in inner cities and to attract Black people into Unity ministry. She serves as executive director until 2013. 
  • 1983 Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday becomes a U.S. holiday to be observed on the third Monday each January. 
  • 1983 Rosemary Fillmore Rhea, the granddaughter of Charles and Myrtle, writes about Rev. Johnnie Colemon: “Today it is difficult to believe that Unity would participate in such blatant discrimination.” 
  • 1987 Connie Fillmore Bazzy, the great-granddaughter of Charles and Myrtle, is the fourth generation in the family to become president of Unity School. 
  • 1993 Black students create a program to share the contributions of African Americans in the Unity movement. 
  • 1994 Unity School of Christianity issues a statement called “Honoring Diversity Within the Unity Movement.” 
  • 1998 Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon is invited to Unity Village and presented a proclamation by students. 
  • Late 1990s Unity School forms a Diversity Council that brings in consultants to facilitate workshops with the staff and board.

2000s

  • 2001 The leadership of Unity School transfers from a family-run operation to a more traditional nonprofit management and board structure. Connie Fillmore Bazzy steps down. 
  • 2003 A joint statement called “Enhancing the Dream” is issued by Tom Zender, the CEO of Unity School, and Glenn Mosley, president and CEO of the Association of Unity Churches, formally apologizing for the racial history of Unity and offering to conduct a healing ceremony. 
  • 2004 The healing ceremony is part of a student-led celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Unity leaders apologize and acknowledge past discrimination against Black people. 
  • 2010 Unity School of Christianity begins using the name Unity World Headquarters (UWH), and the Association of Unity Churches begins doing business as Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM). 
  • 2016 Unity Village hosts “Johnnie Colemon Day, A Day of Remembrance,” led by officials from both Unity organizations and the Universal Foundation for Better Living, honoring her courage and accomplishments and again acknowledging her unfair treatment by Unity. The 200 guests arrive from across the U.S. and Jamaica. Colemon made her transition in 2014 after more than 50 years in ministry. 
  • 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day becomes a paid holiday for employees at Unity World Headquarters. 
  • 2018 Unity World Headquarters hires a full-time diversity officer, Alexandra Scott, to oversee equity in hiring as well as training for employees. Twenty trainings are conducted for 300 employees over the next two years on unconscious bias, microaggression, privilege, and antiracism. Read more about UWH’s current efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. 
  • 2019 To celebrate Black History Month, UWH creates this video with profiles of Black leaders called On the Shoulders of Greatness: Black History in Unity.
  • 2020 For Black History Month, UWH creates a booklet titled Gems of Wisdom from Black Leaders of New Thought
  • 2020 In May, George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, is killed by Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin as three other officers watched and did nothing to help Floyd. The event is captured on video, and protests and demands for racial equality span the globe. Jim Blake, CEO at Unity World Headquarters, makes a video statement in support of the Black community, and Unity creates a special section on its website with resources about race, antiracism, and diversity called Standing Together
  • 2020 Juneteenth becomes a paid holiday for UWH employees. 
  • 2020 The UWH board of directors forms a task force focused on diversity and inclusion, working in collaboration with a group of Black Unity ministers. 
  • 2020 Unity World Headquarters CEO Jim Blake earns a master of divinity degree from the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary, part of the Universal Foundation for Better Living. 
  • 2021 UWH hosts an online event to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day featuring Black ministers and laypeople across the country. 
  • 2021 For Black History Month, UWH invites Black ministers to make videos speaking to the importance of Black History Month and how Unity teachings support racial equality.

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